Sunday, May 8, 2011

Concert Review: Bill Callahan – The Academy, Dublin, 5th May 2011

It transpired that this was the first night of Bill Callahan’s tour, conjuring up images of his band receiving a letter in the post from Callahan reading: “Touring Europe. See you at the airport. Bill.”

Sophia Knapp was the support, accompanying her guitar playing with programmed keyboards. Unfortunately it was mostly forgettable stuff, with shades of 80s power balladress (new word!) Pat Benatar here and there. There was an improvement on the aptly titled Nothing To Lose where she ditched the keyboards.

By now the venue was full to bursting, with stifling heat. Bill Callahan cut a stoic, messianic figure on stage, clad in a white suit and bathed in white light as he strummed Spanish guitar with occasional harmonica. Riding for the Feeling was an early highlight. It’s a downright lovely song but it was enhanced here by some wonderful electric guitar from Matt Kinsey.

The band, completed by tie-wearing drummer Neal Morgan sounded comfortingly old-fashioned, and rendered songs like Our Anniversary, Free’s and Jim Cain in subtle, stripped-down arrangements, Kinsey’s electric guitar substituting for strings. Universal Applicant gave Callahan a chance to do his flare impersonation while the song benefited from some lovely guitar flourishes on the coda creating a beautifully laid-back atmosphere, not spoilt by the Bez-from-Happy-Mondays impersonator beside us.

The music created by this threesome was really quite something, with Callahan also showcasing a fine singing voice. Some tracks such as Eid Ma Clack Shaw and My Friend were radically reimagined from their recorded versions and worked well. Bill Callahan found time to dig up Bathysphere from his back catalogue, which concluded his set.

If the feverish retail activity at his concession stand was anything to go by, he sent an adoring crowd home deliriously happy. Indeed I really didn't want it to end!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Album Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Ragged Glory

In 1990 Neil Young had not worked with Crazy Horse for quite a while, and reunited they produced a long, loose, sloppy set of jams. Many of the songs are quite long, 7-10 minutes in duration, showcasing long, distorted guitar solos.

Isolating individual tracks is difficult, as it’s more about the riffs, of which there are plenty. Tracks like Country Home, Over and Over and Love To Burn have raw, dirty guitar riffage going through them, while the vocals are ropey as hell – no autotune here!

They make time for a little throwaway with the hokey Farmer John, while later Days That Used To Be takes the melody and subject matter of Bob Dylan’s My Back Page and runs it through the Horse filter, with very pleasing results. Less successful is Mother Earth, an “all join hands” style ballad which is a little tedious.

This is defiantly not a songwriter’s album. It’s about the feel and the guitar sound. Though it has one monumental song on it in the shape of F*!#in' Up which has a pounding beat and a dirty guitar sound. It’s as grunge as it gets, like most of the album, making it fit perfectly with the start of the nineties.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

And So I Watch You From Afar – Instore at Tower Records, Dublin, April 30th 2011

There was a fair smattering of people to see And So I Watch You From Afar playing instore early on a Saturday afternoon. This band radiates excitement. They powered through mainly tracks from just released new album Gangs, tracks like BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION and Search:Party:Animal were powered through with some serious volume.

They played a couple of older tracks such as the joyous D is for Django the Bastard. Watching them play this song is quite a sight to behold. Simply, it’s 4 guys going absolutely nuts and tearing it up with this song. They didn’t forget their first album, playing A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes A Long Way.

Would have loved to have seen them play for real at the Button Factory later but life got in the way. Still ASIWYFA are becoming a seriously big deal, and seeing them for free on a Saturday afternoon was a real treat.